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Acting otherwise: Resistance, agency and subjectivities in Milgram’s studies of obedience
Theory & Psychology (2015)
  • Jill G. Morawski
In this account of the Obedience to Authority experiments, we offer a richer and more dynamic 
depiction of the subjects’ acts and reactions. To paraphrase Milgram, our account tries to examine 
the central elements of the situation as perceived by its research subjects. We describe a model 
of the experimenter–subject system that moves beyond experimentalism and humanism, positing 
instead a model that considers experimenter–subject relations and extends both spatially and 
temporally past the experiment’s traditionally assumed limits: the walls of the laboratory and 
its canonical methods. Following Butler and Krause, we propose an approach that attends to 
quotidian, subtle, and unregistered ways of acting otherwise. Taking the Yale archive’s collection 
of Milgram’s subject files, audio recordings, and notes as historical traces of the experimenter–
subject system, our analysis introduces a grounded understanding of how Milgram’s cut between 
obedience and disobedience renders invisible all but the most explicit manifestations of resistance 
or ways of acting otherwise. Investigating Milgram’s work through an experimenter–subject 
systems model illuminates previously undocumented affective and temporal dimensions of 
laboratory life and serves as a template for assessing other experimental situations.
  • Stanley Milgram,
  • non-sovereign agency,
  • obedience to authority,
  • resistance,
  • social psychology of experimentation
Publication Date
Citation Information
Jill G. Morawski. "Acting otherwise: Resistance, agency and subjectivities in Milgram’s studies of obedience" Theory & Psychology (2015)
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